Interestingly, throughout reading this dialogue I was constantly reminded of Nietzsche’s quote that Dr. Wexler put in our syllabus, “Is dialectics only a form of revenge in Socrates?” which this one seems to clearly illustrate – especially when Socrates makes it very clear that if he were to be killed by the state that they, those in power, would be the wicked party in his death. His attitude during the conversation shows his disdain for a specific kind of rhetoric, which can be used in politics or public service only through deceit and flattery. In addition, this tactic of Socrates allows him to take on major figures during his time, Gorgias being a popular speaker and Polus as his student – but especially Callicles, who I believe is supposed to represent an up and coming political figure. Socrates’ dialectics seem to be the only sort of “revenge” that he can grab at from his lower social status. He is able to show these high status individuals to be without a reasonable foundation in their ideologies, and illustrate how he, a lowly plebian, can master these “masters”.
Moreover, I tend to agree with his view of rhetoric. It doesn’t seem to me that rhetoric alone can lead to knowledge or an understanding of truth – but can be a powerful tool in conveying those truths discovered by different means. Socrates uses his form of rhetoric to convey these truths, which does seem a bit ironic, but he is clearly condemning a dishonorable use of rhetoric. He obviously has a great grasp of rhetoric which is why he can condemn it so vehemently – but his understanding of rhetoric is seen especially in how he easily highjacks Gorgias’ audience. Just as Ede and Lunsford described in “Audience Addressed/ Audience Invoked”, Socrates finds a balance between molding his views to those of the audience, and using his rhetorical prowess to convey his views clearly to the crowd. Callicles would perhaps represent one favoring the Audience Addressed approach as he is said to change his views depending on who he is speaking to. What I felt was conveyed through this dialectic is the immense power that rhetoric can wield but with a caution that it must be used in an honorable way. Yes, Socrates condemns rhetoric, but he does so only because during his time it was being used by those in power with unjust motives.